[FLEUVES] Between Forest and Coast: Why should we talk about the flotation of logs in Protohistoric Cilicia?

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Anatolian Rivers between East and West

Axes and FrontiersGeographical, economical and cultural aspects of the human-environment interactions between the Hebros and Tigris Rivers in ancient timesThe Cultural Aspects of Rivers28th September-1st October 2017Istanbul (French Institute of Anatolian Studies)Enez (Enez Excavations Directorate)…

Between Asia and Asia Minor: Cilician and Near Eastern Rivers

Éric JEAN (Çorum University, Forest and Coast: Why should we talk about the flotation of logs in Protohistoric Cilicia?

Hittite texts provide the names of many watercourses, in connection with religious practices or serving as space delimitations, like the border between two kingdoms or the limits of a temple’s area. On the other hand, they remain very silent about the use of rivers for socioeconomic activities, as transport. Protohistoric Cilicia confirms that picture but, with its geographical situation between mountains and sea, it may also serve as a study case for the potential use of its rivers as means of wood transport, by flotation.From both archaeological evidence and inferences drawn from the interpretation of textual evidence, metallurgy and shipbuilding must have been important activities in Cilicia, from the Chalcolithic period (Mersin-Yumuktepe) and, at least, the Hittite period onwards, respectively. Both activities required big amounts of wood, which was supplied by the surrounding forests from the Taurus and the Amanus ranges. Since land transport from the mountains was particularly difficult until the construction of modern roads, it can be assumed that the conveying of timber was made by rivers.As there is no direct evidence for the flotation of logs in Cilicia during the Hittite period, which is concerned here, indirect information will be induced from, first, the study of wood, its importance, use and origin, and, secondly, the analysis of the Cilician rivers and their potential use during the 2nd Millennium BC.Wood represented a good of first necessity, not only for the daily heating and the architecture, but for the metallurgical industry and the construction of ships as well.Metallurgical activities were assumed from, at least, the excavations in Kinet Höyük, Tarsus-Gözlü Kule and Kilise Tepe. In the 13th c. BC, a letter sent by the Hittite king Hattushili III to an Assyrian king mentions a royal storehouse for iron in Kizzuwatna (Plane Cilicia); from the same letter it may be inferred that there was iron smelting in the region. The opening on the sea and the function of sea ports played by the sites of Kinet Höyük, Mersin-Soli Höyük, perhaps Mersin-Yumuktepe, and by the non localised city of Ura (Silifke?), suggest the existence of a shipbuilding. More than likely, shipbuilding was a necessity, especially since the Hittites needed an outlet to the Mediterranean (see Ura) and a navy, though they were probably notsailors themselves. Furthermore, it is assumed that the famous copper production in Cyprus would have required more fuel than provided by the island, so that the Cypriots had to import wood, logically from the forest resources surrounding Cilicia. In the same way as for watercourses, information provided on mountains by Hittite texts does not concern in the first place their economic potential. However, the importance of the Taurus, especially for its mines, and the Amanus for its forests is well documented in Assyrian sources, the cedar being the favourite tree and wood.A presentation of the main Cilician rivers and of the changes of their course will show that their navigability was very low, because of flows very strong (before the construction of the modern dams). Nevertheless, the situation of sites like Kilise Tepe and Sirkeli Höyük suggest there were river ports. The relative welfare of Sirkeli came most probably from its function as a port in a key position on both sides of the Ceyhan River flowing from the Yukarıova to the Çukurova through the Misis Dağ. By giving later examples in history (Antiquity, Middle Age, Modern Times…), it will be demonstrated that the conveying of wood as raw material through flotation of logs was the easiest way to supply ports, cities and other commercial centres.Often considered in opposition, like a salvage world versus a civilized one, the mountains and the plain with its cities were actually complementary. In that interdependence, between forest and coast, the rivers, despite their difficult use, were a link and an economic actor.


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